Written by David Benioff
Directed by Marc Forster
Running Time: 2:08
for strong thematic material including
the rape of a child, violence
and brief strong language.
The Kite Runner was a reasonable, if somewhat disturbing film, that wasn't as magical as everyone says the book is.
Amir and Hassan are best friends in Afghanistan. But while they are best friends, Hassan works for Amir and Amir's father, due to his being in a lower caste. Amir is jealous of Hassan, because while Amir is the one with all the privileges and the ability to read, it is Hassan who Amir's father seems to favor. During an annual kite flying competition, which Amir and Hassan win, Hassan is brutally raped by a gang of young boys, and Amir sits back and watches it happen, without raising a finger to help his friend. Buried under mounds of guilt, Amir lashes out as Hassan, and eventually Hassan and his father leave. Shortly thereafter, the Russians invade, and Amir and his father are forced to flee the country. Many years later they end up in California struggling to make a life for themselves. Amir is still filled with guilt when he receives a call from his father's best friend, Rahim Khan, asking him to come back home. Hassan has died, but has left behind a son. Amir has one chance to try and repair the hurt and exorcise the ghosts from his past, but in doing so, must risk his life going back to a country he no longer recognizes.
Let me first say, I've never read the book (other than the first 3 chapters) so I went into The Kite Runner almost blind. I didn't know much about the story. The only thing I knew is that every single person I've ever talked to who has read the book, has absolutely loved it. But as the movie came and went last winter, it made me think that the translation probably wasn't as good as it could have been, so I went in with low expectations. What I found is a movie that is full of emotion, but has one major flaw. The character of Amir is the central figure in the story, yet the two actors portraying him (young and old) didn't have any warmth to them. There was nothing for me to latch on to. Nothing that made me like them so that I felt sorry for them or wanted them to succeed. They were such cold actors that while I enjoyed the rest of the movie, and the rest of the characters, I couldn't truly enjoy the film.
When Amir and Hassan were children, the movie was really well made. The two kids worked well together. The character of Hassan was so sweet and touching that when he is attacked it makes your heart completely break. It wasn't so much the attack as the aftermath. He continued on his way as if nothing happened. He was trapped when he was running down a kite for his best friend Amir, and after the attack you see him, slowly walking down the street with the kite intact. He could have stopped the attack from happening if he had only given up the kite, but it was for his best friend and nothing was going to stop him. But then to have Amir turn a cold shoulder was truly heartbreaking. During one of the documentaries in the extras, the author talks about how he almost made Hassan the main character. I sort of wish there was a companion book that shows what happens to Hassan after he and his father leave, because I think his story might be just as compelling.
The rest of the cast was top notch. Homayoun Ershadi, who plays Amir's father, was truly a standout. He goes from playing a rich, powerful man in his homeland, to a gas station attendant in California, who supplements his income by selling antiques on the weekend. But he never loses his pride, and standing up for what he believes is right. And although he wishes his son could be tougher, he always supports him. And there once again is where the problem with the movie lies. When the character of Amir is younger, he is outshined by Hassan, and when he is older, he is outshined by his father. Once Amir goes back to Afghanistan to try and find Hassan's son, the acting of Khalid Abdalla gets slightly better, but there is still a distance between him and the audience. Even when he faces his demons and for the first time stands up against bullies to do what's right, he feels week and insignificant. I really, honestly believe the reason this movie didn't live up to the expectations of many is because it was miscast. The movie had everything you need for a truly special film - a beloved book, a heartbreaking and heartwarming story of love, loss and redemption, and a top notch director and stunning visuals. But the acting of the main character was so cold and distant that the movie never had a chance.
The DVD has a few extras including a commentary track with the director, screenwriter and author, along with a couple of documentaries. They each discuss the book to film transformation and the importance of keeping things as real as possible. The book's author discusses how he traveled back to his homeland and didn't recognize anything, much like the character of Amir. The rape sequence he says was chosen mainly because he wanted to find the most horrible thing he could find that could happen to a person. The documentaries are definitely worth checking out, although I feel like there were some things that were missing.
THE BOTTOM LINE
So overall, I liked The Kite Runner. It wasn't the best movie, but it had enough emotion to keep me watching without wanting to check my watch. I think a stronger lead actor would have definitely helped.
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